Sensitive Issues

Client: Australian Government Department of Veterans Affairs

The foundation of any story initiative needs to be a commitment to ethical processes; that’s a given. But when dealing with sensitive subjects such as health, family relationships or personal challenges, best practice is absolutely crucial to protect the health and privacy of participants.

This project was a book of stories commissioned by the Australian Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs to increase support for war veterans and their families. Government and NFP are pioneers in narrative approaches and there’s so much commercial businesses can learn from their work.

We found the 8 stories through community agencies working directly with veterans and their families. Our best practice approach included creation of an ethical process that would protect the participants but still give flexibility for individual privacy decisions. Working closely from the outset with an Ethics Board and an expert clinician to minimise any negative impact, we created a framework to allow participants to get the most out of the experience. Part of our process included inclusive practices, on-going support and media management.

As is often the case with story projects, the positive outcomes exceeded expectation on many fronts. The personal benefits for subjects who were telling their stories for the first time, was astonishing.

“The places I have been and things I have done since you wrote my story is pretty cool. I was set free…seriously. When I sat on that couch talking to you I honestly did not see much future ahead for me  … but the book and your influence Moya, was a life altering experience for me, the ripple effect continues!”  Storyteller, Jim Mepham

The book was designed by Clive, our Only Human designer chief. Fifteen thousand copies were published in first run: stocks were exhausted within six months. Beyond the Call was then re-printed. And of course, it’s available online as a free download.

Originally conceived as a resource for service providors, the book found unexpected audiences throughout the community. It is used extensively advocacy groups, health agencies, educational institutions, community groups, service providors, Government Departments etc.

After publication, I visited our World War 2 couple, Lloyd and Muriel with our TV Specialist Doc, Jennifer Cummins (Heiress Films). We spent the day. Many cups of tea and delicious jam scones later…we have this beautiful and timeless story.

An iphone is sometimes all you need to capture a moment. Two years after the book was published, I ran into Jim Mepham, one of our storytellers in Melbourne. I asked how his life had changed since I saw him last. (Inspiring & wonderful quick vid: excuse the trams!)

Read a story; download all the stories in PDF